“Gratitude is not a limited resource, nor is it costly. It is abundant as air. We breathe it in but forget to exhale.”
– Marshall Goldsmith
Once again, it is December and we are out of breath. The stress of balancing spiritual, family, and career priorities means that calendars, budgets, and patience are stretched to the limit.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, yet we are often too exhausted to reflect, enjoy, and share a gift that comes from within – gratitude.
Breathing and gratitude are both two-step cycles. We breathe in oxygen and carbon dioxide is expelled. Gratitude operates a little differently. We breathe in goodness and exhale our spirit to benefit others through appreciation.
Gratitude – a gift of genuine appreciation with no strings attached.
• A gift – you don’t need a receipt to return it.
• Genuine appreciation – for a specific act, including the effect it had on you and others.
• No strings attached – you expect nothing in return.
For years I have struggled with the “strings attached” expectation. Last year, I joined fellow board members at an expensive restaurant, dining with a young student who had been recognized as an outstanding leader by our organization. I realized before the bill came that it was up to each of us to cover our meal, and the student might struggle to do so. Our non-profit board has a tight budget and this could be an awkward moment.
I had a choice – engage or ignore. In the past I might have missed the moment entirely. Standing up, I excused myself from the table indicating I had to go. As I departed, I found our server and paid for both of our meals. I left and did not look back.
You may think this was just a good deed and I am proud of paying her bill. Actually, I surprised myself by not expecting a follow-up. By changing my own expectations, it has helped make me a better person and leader.
Dr. Robert Emmons is an expert on appreciation and his research has discovered that expressing thanks contributes to our overall sense of well-being. The result is that we are more agreeable, forgiving, optimistic, healthy, and open in our relationships. The irony is that our lives get richer when we send our gifts to others.
A 2012 survey by the John Templeton Foundation found that 71% of those surveyed said they would feel better about themselves if their boss expressed more gratitude. 81% said they would work harder. The disconnect is that people also indicated they were less likely to express gratitude at the office than any other place in their lives.
At work, gratitude needs to come from all directions – top, across, and down: leader to follower, follower to leader, peer to peer, and even employee to client.
• The administrative assistant who navigated through the corporate mess to make your problems go away.
• Your boss who may not be perfect yet gives you the resources and room to be successful.
• Most importantly, your spouse or partner who understands and supports your professional needs.
Three keys to exhaling your best to others:
Make a List – And Check it Twice
Name two people you work with who need your gratitude. Perhaps you have never shared your appreciation, or you need to go back and deliver a better message. No doubt sending these gifts will lead to unexpected new opportunities to share gratitude.
Well Thought Thank You v. Thanks
While a simple “thanks” is better than no acknowledgement, it often rings hollow. Take the time to reflect on the proper message. A thank you recognizing what you appreciate and why is where the value exists.
Cut the Strings
Human nature is filled with expectations, including expecting something in return when we do something for someone else. That little voice we hear eagerly hoping something good will come back our way – a mutual deal. Gratitude is all about the gift not the exchange.
Let me express my gratitude to all of you for reading my newsletter – whether you have been a loyal subscriber the past five years, or this is your very first experience. I hope this message inspires you to share your good news with the most important people in your life – the workplace and world need your breath of fresh air.
All my best,